APA Style Formatting

APA Style: An Overview
The APA Style refers to the guidelines prescribed by the American Psychological Association to write academic
articles typically research papers or scholarly articles. The guidelines are aimed to standardise the formatting followed
in writing research articles so that the readers do not lose focus in formatting and thus reading comprehension
becomes effective. It includes a wide range of aspects of writing research articles like paper format, grammar and
spellings, table and figures, in-text citations and references, language etc. The APA style covers the aspects of writing
research articles in the fields like psychology, nursing, business, communications, engineering and other related fields.
The guidelines have been segregated into several parts owing to the different aspects that need to be addressed by the
authors. This overview of APA Style attempts to present the category wise guidelines in a concise manner as followsPAPER FORMAT
The paper format is an important aspect in any article which needs to be followed consistently throughout. It
includes the aspects related to the arrangement and display of the content. The most important and broad objectives
regarding the paper format are listed below1. Order of pages- title page, abstract, text, references, footnotes, tables, figures and appendices.
2. Title pages differ with the type of article. Student title page includes paper title, author names, author affiliation(s),
respective course number and name,instructor name,assignment due date and page number. Professional title page
includes the running head in addition to the details mentioned in student title page.
3. A variety of legible and widely acceptable fonts are permitted in APA style like 12-point Times New Roman,
11-point Arial and 11-point Calibri.
4. Page header consists of page number in student assignments while it also includes running head in professional
papers. Title page should carry the number 1 and all pages should be numbered.
5. All sections of the paper including abstract,text,quotations,tables and figure number titles, reference list should be
double spaced.
6. The text of the paper should be aligned to the left and the right side should be left uneven.
7. Headings should be used to differentiate distinct sections of the paper. There are five levels of headings in APA
style where Level 1 is the main heading and each subsequent level is the subheading of the previous level.
The usage of proper grammar is important for effective communication throughout the research articles. Improper
usage may result in ambiguity. The following guidelines are to be followed as per the APA style for Grammar1. ‘Anthropomorphism’ should be avoided.
2. Comparisons should be logical so that it doesn’t produce confusion in the reader’s mind.
3. Appropriate verb tense should be used consistently throughout the relevant paragraphs.
4. As per APA style, both active and passive voice is permitted as per requirement.
5. The correct pronoun should be used as per the situation and reference to oneself should not be done in third person.
The language used in scholarly articles should be accurate and clear to avoid any misunderstanding or bias especially
when writing about individuals or group of individuals. The following guidelines underline the basic requirements in
this regard1. Focus on relevant characteristics and describe them using specific terms. While describing sexual orientation of
individuals, it is better to be specific.
2. Prefer to use the terms or names which a group of individuals associate with themselves such that they feel pride in
that identity. This aspect finds application in referring to people with certain disability.
3. Do not compare groups of individuals such that the comparison is derogatory or marginalises a particular group
from the society.
4. Appropriate terms should be used to represent individuals of different age groups, different genders and different
racial or ethnic groups.
5. Analysis of past events should not misrepresent the ideas of the past.
6. While describing the socioeconomic status of a group of people, sufficient details of education and income of the
group should be provided. The terms such as ‘homeless’ or ‘poor’ should not be used to describe people in the low
income group.
The presentation in a research paper is better illustrated by the use of figures and tables. All the display in the
paper apart from tables is considered as a figure. It may include bar graphs, pie charts, drawings and maps. The
guidelines for their usage is mentioned below1. A table should have a number,title,heading,body and note below the table.
2. A figure should have number,title,image,legend and note below the figure.
There are several attributes of a scholarly writing which are crucial in delivering the message to the reader. These
factors include punctuation,lower and upper case letters,italics, abbreviations etc. The APA Style guidelines on usage
of these tools are mentioned below1. Punctuation in a scholarly writing establishes the flow of the reader. It directs where to pause,where to stop etc.
However, the usage of punctuation should be done appropriately. Use one space after a period. Use a serial comma
between elements in a series of three or more items. If one or more items in the series already contains a comma, use
semicolons between the items instead of commas.
2. Spelling check needs to be done so that typographical errors don’t make their way to a published article or
assignment. Spellings and hyphenation in APA Style papers should match the Merriam-Webster.com dictionary.
3. In APA Style of formatting, the words are lowercase by default unless there is a specific requirement e.g.- proper
nouns should be capitalised. APA Style uses two types of capitalisation called the title case and the sentence case.
4. Numbers are an indispensable part of scholarly articles. In APA Style, numbers zero through nine are expressed in
words and numbers 10 and above are expressed as numerals.
5. Italics and quotation marks are used to draw attention to a particular part of text. Italics are used for terms and
phrases while writing definitions and to format parts of reference list entries. Quotation works are used to present
linguistic examples and titles of book chapters and articles in the text.
6. Abbreviations should be used if a term is used more than three times in the paper. In the first instance, the whole
term should be written in text and the abbreviation should be written in parentheses.
The authors normally refer to a lot of sources for information and perspective while carrying out research work
and writing a scholarly article. In this process, the author has to provide citations to acknowledge the contribution of
others in the work. All the sources which have been used need to be cited. The guidelines of in-text citation in APA
style are described below1. APA style uses author-date citation system wherein a brief text citation appears in the body of the paper. This
citation directs the readers to a full reference list entry. In-text citations can be parenthetical citation or a narrative
citation. In the parenthetical citation, both the name of the author and the date are mentioned in parentheses e.g.
(Schmitt,2015). In narrative citation, the authors surname is used in the running text and the date is mentioned in
parentheses e.g. Snyder (2019) noted the consequences of fake news.
2. Paraphrasing is preferred over direct quoting except under certain requirements where exact quotes need to be
3. Quotation from research participants who are part of the original research doesn’t need citation. However, it should
not be treated as author’s personal communication to readers.
4. When proper credits are not given to the authors of the original sources being used in the research, it amounts to
plagiarism which is considered a highly unethical practice.
The sources cited as in-text citations throughout the scholarly article are entered in a reference list so that interested
readers may check the original source which has been cited. The formatting of references in APA style is done as per
the following norms1. Reference list has four elements - author, data, title and source. Separate formats of author names in case of
individual authors and group of authors need to be followed.
2. In case certain information like date about the work to be cited is missing, then different strategies of writing
reference are prescribed.
3. While citing a work from academic databases which are popular and widely available, writing the name of the
database is not required. Instead DOI (Digital Object Identifier) should be included in the reference for all the works
where DOI is available.
4. Bibliographies are not required in APA Style.
The above overview has been prepared with an intention to present a broad idea about APA Style and the
formatting guidelines prescribed by the American Psychological Association for writing scholarly articles. For a
detailed study, the reader is suggested to visit the official website of APA Style (www.apastyle.apa.org).